the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Pure Imagination of the Golden Ticket

Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this golden ticket, from Mr. Willy Wonka!  I shake you warmly by the hand!  Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you!  For now, I do invite you to come to my factory and be my guest for one whole day — you and all others who are lucky enough to find my Golden Tickets.  I, Willy Wonka, will conduct you around the factory myself, showing you everything that there is to see, and afterwards, when it is time to leave, you will be escorted home by a procession of large trucks.  These trucks, I can promise you, will be loaded with enough delicious eatables to last you and your entire household for many years.  If, at any time thereafter, you should run out of supplies, you have only to come back to the factory and show this Golden Ticket, and I shall be happy to refill your cupboard with whatever you want.  In this way, you will be able to keep yourself supplied with tasty morsels for the rest of your life.  But this is by no means the most exciting thing that will happen on the day of your visit.  I am preparing other surprises that are even more marvellous and more fantastic for you and for all my beloved Golden Ticket holders — mystic and marvelous surprises that will entrance, delight, intrigue, astonish, and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine that such things could happen to you! Just wait and see!  And now, here are your instructions: the day I have chosen for the visit is the first day in the month of February.  On this day, and on no other, you must come to the factory gates at ten o’clock sharp in the morning.  Don’t be late!  And you are allowed to bring with you either one or two members of your own family to look after you and to ensure that you don’t get into mischief.  One more thing — be certain to have this ticket with you, otherwise you will not be admitted.

(Signed) Willy Wonka

(from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Who has never hoped for that Golden Ticket that will gain him entrance to the places of his wildest dreams? 

On Saturday, I was walking along the street in Long Beach when I notice that a new candy store had opened down the block.  It was one of those upscale candy stores that was geared as much for adults as kids, with a large selection of exotic and nostalgic candies from the past.  Outside the entrance, a few adults were online waiting to get a signed headshot from some “celebrity” who was there to promote the store.   I’m pretty good at recognizing those in the public eye, but I had no idea who the celebrity was at first, even when someone told me that this was “Mike Teavee.” 

“Who?” I wondered. 

Then I saw a poster for the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and immediately remembered the obnoxious kid in the cowboy outfit, one of the winners of the Golden Ticket to the factory.  Sitting here was Paris Themmen, who played Mike Teavee in the film.  I stood on line.  The woman in front of me was next.  She was thrilled to meet a character from her favorite movie.

“Can you please write “To Meg, Martin, and the two girls — Mike Tevee says, “I love TV, Willy Wonka Candy, and I love YOU!”

The actor quickly scribbled the message.  It seemed as if he’d done this countless times before at other candy stores and movie conventions.

Next, It was my turn.  I had never stood in line to get a signature before… well, other than for Crazy Aunt Purl’s book signing in LA, who then promptly stopped coming to this site after I told her to sign my book “Neilochka, I’d knit you a pair of socks anytime, anywhere.”

“Hey, how ya doing?” asked Paris Themmen, the former Mike Teavee.  I’m a big fan of the original Willy Wonka, and the books of Roald Dahl, but I wasn’t really prepared for this random meeting with the former child star. He seemed like a cool guy, and seeing that I was a little down in the dumps over things with Sophia, I saw this as a pick-me-up.

“Uh, great,” I said.  “Thanks for coming here.”

“What would you like me to write for you?” he asked.

I really had no idea.

The result:

After he handed me his signed photo, some pretty girl handed me a free “Willy Wonka” brand candy bar.  Now, if I were Mike Teavee or a character in Willy Wonka, I probably would have ripped open the packaging to see if there was a Golden Ticket inside.  Unfortunately, my first destination was to read the back of the wrapper for the nutritional information, where I discovered that this candy had more saturated fat than a pastrami sandwich at Canter’s Deli. 

“Hell, I should at least try it and see if Willy Wonka would approve.” 

I took one bite of this grainy, milk chocolate pseudo Nestle Crunch bar and I knew immediately that Willy himself would drown the producers of this monstrosity in a vat of chocolate (I later found out that the “Willy Wonka” brand is licensed to Nestle). It tossed most of the candy, which is probably the best thing for my cholesterol.

Besides, there was no Golden Ticket inside.

One day, I’ll get that Golden Ticket.  But it won’t be in a candy bar. 

Thanks for the photo, Paris (Mike Teavee)!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Lillies of the Valley

34 Comments

  1. Artful Kisser

    Wow! Is that one degree of separation between me and Mike TeaVee now, or two? I’m never sure. And his name is Paris? Paris??

  2. V-Grrrl

    This may be your most depressing post ever.

    Chocolate shops are almost as common as bakeries in Belgium, the candy is often made on site, and they have a bit of magic.

    Wishing you truly sweet things, Neilochka. Like fine dark chocolate thats good for your heart and soul. : )

  3. V-Grrrl

    P.S. We need to Danny to give us the history of the movie, the actor, etc. C’mon Danny–tell us about it!

  4. natalie

    i wonder how much money paris makes from his mike tee vee candy store appearances. enough to warrant doing them? i can’t even imagine!

    and if danny can’t put out then heyjoe can probably dig up something!

  5. Kyra

    You know, that has to be pretty depressing – still signing autographs for what you did as a young child. Kind of makes me grateful I haven’t hit it big…. yet. 😉 I know my moment is still out there, waiting for me somewhere. (I hope.)

  6. brettdl

    I’ve been reading “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” to Seth. Not as good as the first book in the series, but Dahl’s characterization of the President is spot on.

  7. Neil

    V-grrl – I don’t think anyone found it depressing. People were connecting with him because he was in such an iconic movie.

  8. Heather

    You were in my neck of the woods, and you didn’t give me a shout?! Harrumph!

    I know that candy shop – they’ve been cock-teasing me for months saying they’re going to open soon. I can’t believe they finally did, and had Mike Tee Vee on top of it! That’s so awesome.

  9. Neil

    Heather, I did think of you. I didn’t expect to be there, or else I would have contacted you. I did look you, hoping you might be rollerblading on the street, wearing a bikini, taking photos.

  10. -RM

    I hope things start to go better for your. I myself would not want to meet anyone from that cast, but oddly enough love that movie very much. I hate the remake = ).

  11. bookfraud

    I knew immediately that Willy himself would drown the producers of this monstrosity in a vat of chocolate

    what? no augustus gloop joke?

    hope that mike tee vee gave you a little solace. funny, too, that i made a veruca salt reference to wife just yesterday.

    i watched the clip with the sound off. it’s kind of creepy that way.

  12. nancypearlwannabe

    That is a genius idea, to have Mike Teevee at a candy store opening. And you just happened to see him!

  13. cruisin-mom

    I can’t stop singing “Candy Man” now.

  14. Heidi

    LOVED Roald Dahl’s books as a kid. The movie versions don’t even come close.

  15. churlita

    I would have stood in line too. What else do you suppose that guy does all day besides signing stuff from a movie made in the 70’s?

  16. MsMamma

    Neil!
    I love it. I’m glad you threw away that nastiness. Now you have a gift for your friend named Neil. Bonus!

  17. HeyJoe

    Roald was a twisted SOB.

  18. Nichole M

    That’s so neat! That is still a great movie. The Johnny Depp version is good, too, but nothing compares with the original. You know, like Disneyland. (btw, this is sa_scully from twitter)

  19. Annie

    I am glad you had a bit of cheering up, though the candy sounds awful. I loved the first version of the movie and I even liked the second version for different reasons.

  20. Neil

    I didn’t see the new version, thinking it would suck, but I hear a lot of people like it, so maybe I’ll rent it. From what I hear — the book — which I never did read, is the best.

  21. Jennifer

    The book is definitely the best! The new version is just creepy, although the Oompa Loompa songs are a LOT catchier! For some reason, they replaced the geese laying golden eggs with squirrels. I never have watched the whole thing through so I’m not sure why!

  22. AnnieH

    Any chance you could hunt down Erik Estrada and the two of you could dress as cops and shut this place down for selling such crappy chocolate candy bars?? Some abuse of chocolate law on the books out there in California?? Here in CinCity we would just graffiti their asses. I bet you would look super fierce dressed in blue.

  23. Danny

    I laughed at V-Grrrl’s comment because of course I was obsessed with this film when it first came out. In 1971 I had recently received a response from Roald Dahl to a letter I had written him and I was convinced he and Patricia Neal were my real parents. I thought Paris Themmen did a great job in the role of Mike Teevee. I also loved Dodo Denney who played his mother. The inside joke with her character is that she was supposed to be a teacher and she was constantly correcting Willy Wonka but all her corrections were wrong. Jean Stapleton had been cast in the role of Mrs. Teevee but left the film when she was asked to be in the pilot for “All in the Family.” Incidentally, Denney’s two sons started (and still play in) the L.A. punk band The Weirdos.

    Of course the one I had the hots for in the Willy Wonka movie was Veruca Salt, played by Julie Dawn Cole, the only one of the five kids who still acts. I’ve seen Paris at a few other celebrity nostalgia events. I always find those autograph sessions a little creepy (did you have to pay for the cool photo?) but he seems like a nice guy. I almost said “kid” but then I remembered that he is exactly my age—almost 49! As a kid Paris starred on Broadway in “Mame” with Ann Miller and in “The Rothschilds” and also had bit parts in the movies “The Doors” and “The Big Lebowski.”

    Note to Jennifer: it WAS squirrels in the original book, not geese. Veruca’s dad had a peanut factory and employed hundreds of squirrels to shell the nuts. The new version of the film is much more faithful to the story but I still prefer the 70s version. You can’t beat Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

    My daughter just finished a run in a stage production of “Willy Wonka” and the kid playing Mike Teevee was great. They updated the character who was now always on his computer, cell phone, and Wii player.

    Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do
    I have another puzzle for you.
    Oompa Loompa doom-pa-da-dee
    If you are wise you’ll listen to me.
    What do you get from a glut of TV?
    A pain in the neck and an IQ of three.
    Why don’t you try simply reading a book?
    Or can you just not bear to look?

    You’ll get no… you’ll get no… you’ll get no commercials!

    Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-da
    If you’re not greedy, you will go far.
    You will live in happiness, too
    Like the Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do!

  24. Neil

    Danny, your dream has come true. You are now the official go-to guy for obscure movie facts!

  25. Jane

    Danny needs to write a book about the peripheral Hollywood most of us never hear about. His post today on early Technicolor is fascinating.

    Neil, this is one of my favorite movies. The cast was so perfect that I never even considered seeing the new one, a decision that turned solid after I saw the previews of a Michael Jackson looking Johnny Depp. That’s not Willy Wonka! Mr. Wonka was eccentric, not creepy!

    And Charlie. . .my g-d. How could we not root for the wide-eyed boy with so much hope in his heart?

    You’re a little like Charlie, Neil. Or at least your penis is. We’re all cheering you/it on, and cursing those who stand in its/your way.

  26. Neil

    Jane, now you know why you are today’s blog crush. Except stop pimping Danny here. I don’t really want him stealing readers.

  27. HRH @ June Cleaver Nirvana

    I am just impressed you knew who he was.

  28. Shannon

    Oh chocolate. How I could go on. No really I could, I do adore chocolate. Milk, white, and dark. Suffice to say many strawberries have been sacrificed to the cause…the cause being a bowel of chocolate which they were promptly submerged into. Sadly no golden ticket.

  29. V-Grrrl

    Thanks Danny. I knew you’d come through for us!!

    (Suck it up Neil. Talk about it with your therapist!)

    And as for the new Willy Wonka movie? LOVED it. Wicked good. Very, very sharp and funny. I normally consider it penance to sit and watch a children’s movie, but this is one I ran out and bought after we viewed a rental of it. Brillinat.

  30. mp

    I had a little crush on him when I was little.. and he made me feel guilty about my slight addiction to TV.
    Nothing in my mind is better than the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka..Love that movie!

  31. Leesa

    I haven’t seen either, and I wouldn’t have known who he was.
    I do think it’s odd to be signing autographs for something he did as a kid.
    Maybe I’m the wierd one 🙂

  32. Jane

    You know, Neil, Danny was very manly about it when I found you through his page. 😉

    Shannon, I so agree. Chocolate is better than oysters, better than diamonds, better than sex. (Unless, of course, we’re talking sex with Neil).

    Continuously Redeeming Myself,

  33. Ginormous Boobs

    But those Canters sammiches are SOOOO worth it!

  34. Pearl

    That’s one weird movie but I rather enjoyed the music. There must be some porn spin off of that movie somewhere.

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